How to avoid buying an illegal property in Turkey
When Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s took a working holiday to Bodrum last month he was shocked at the scale of coastal development, saying that it wouldn’t be long before housing would be built “in the sea” at the rate building was progressing.
The PM instantly ordered a full investigation into construction, which showed that around 60% of the coastal construction was illegal, with most of the properties violating the 100 metres from the coastline rule and/or built in protected areas. The buildings, which include a number of luxury hotels, are set to be demolished.
Turkish Property consultant, Cameron Deggin, who splits his time 50/50 between Bodrum, Turkey and London, UK, says the investigation has highlighted how careful buyers need to be before committing to either building or purchasing property on coastal regions of Turkey, particularly the most desirable Bodrum peninsula.
“You would be shocked at the number of people who would never cut corners back home, but come out to Turkey and act on a ‘hot tip’ from their waiter or the guy at the local shop on a cheap property. They get excited by this seemingly amazing deal, buy the property and then spend years regretting their decision.”
If you buy an illegally built property you not only risk the chance that it will be demolished but you won’t be able to sell it on, Deggin said.
Deggin cites the case of a Norwegian couple who contacted his company Property Turkey around a year ago.
“One morning I got a call from Norway, asking if I could give him some advice,” said Deggin. “He and his wife were about to buy a seafront property on the outskirts of the peninsula, a lovely spot, actually. They were purchasing straight from a local guy and were all ready to sign on the dotted line.” However, the day before the contract was due to be signed the wife found a Property Turkey news article about illegal constructions in Bodrum.
“The husband called me first thing in the morning wanting advice,” Deggin said. “He’d read the story on our site and had become worried about making a poor decision. I made a couple of calls and wasn’t surprised to find that the property had never had building permission - which means no habitation licence, and no title deed.” couple of calls and wasn’t surprised to find that the property had never had building permission - which means no habitation licence, and no title deed.”
Deggin said the couple were relieved at their last-minute escape and eventually bought another - legally built - villa through Property Turkey. However, many others have not been so lucky. “It never fails to surprise me how often people are taken for a ride here - and every single instance could have been prevented had the buyer just done a little homework first.”
The two types of illegal construction we generally come across
1. Village houses
This is the most common illegal property you’ll find in Turkey. These properties are found in rural areas all over the country. They were built on agricultural land outside of buildable zones by the villagers who owned and worked the land. These dwellings were generally granted a retrospective habitation permission by the mayor of the town, which allowed the villagers to live in the properties. The dwellings are technically illegal and are not recognised on the title deed (TAPU).
We do not recommend buyers purchase village houses in Turkey unless they are in non-agricultural zones, which have proper IMAR (zoning and planning). Because they do not have title deeds you will not be able to raise finance on the property, and selling the property on will be extremely difficult.
2. Deliberate violations
This type of illegal construction is far more severe and involves deliberate violations of zoning laws by developers - which is what has been happening in Bodrum and many other parts of the Turkish Mediterranean and Aegean coast. In this instance, zoning laws have not been obeyed and developers have built in illegal locations (such as too close to the waterfront) or improperly (eg, building a larger property than is permitted in the area).
Consequences for buyers
If you’ve built or purchased an illegal building, you will not be entitled to:
- Full TAPU (Title deeds): the freehold title to land for a house or share of land if it is an apartment;
- ISKAN certificate: the habitation licence which is granted after the building’s completion. This shows the property has been built in line with local planning laws and zoning regulations.
How to avoid buying an illegal property in Turkey
In Bodrum or anywhere else, there are simple steps you can take to ensure you don’t become a victim.
1. Find a decent agent
By ‘decent agent’ we do NOT mean ‘bloke you met at the bar’ or ‘your concierge’s cousin’. Find a qualified agent with a rock solid local reputation. Agents come and go, so ask for a recommendation from someone you trust or find an agent who has been operating for a number of years.
2. Hire a lawyer
Think of it as insurance. Yes, lawyer’s fees can be high. But in Turkey, you can get a reputable solicitor to check your property is above board for around 500 Euros. They will check the habitation licence and permissions on the property and tell you if you’re going down the right track. Personally, we don’t think you can put a price on this peace of mind. Look on your local consulate Website for a recommendation or ask us for a list of trusted professionals.
Deggin says despite the crackdown there are still totally legal and proper waterfront properties available to buy in Turkey and certainly some amazing ones in Bodrum. “There are beachfront properties for sale that were built before the current laws came into place, built right on the water with all planning permissions, as well as one or two seafront villas for sale that are the correct distance from the sea but with beach platforms which allow for unfettered access. There are still fantastic opportunities for anyone looking to buy a frontline property in Bodrum or Kalkan or Fethiye and many more charming towns Turkey offers.”